Originally 1st U.S. Tennessee Volunteers (African Descent):
Also called 1st West Tennessee Infantry Regiment (African Descent)
Mustered in at La Grange, Tennessee, June 6 and June 27, 1863.
- Colonels-Edward Bouton (to Brevet Brigadier General)
- Lieutenant Colonels-Robert E. Phillips, Robert Cowden
- Majors-Robert Cowden, James C. Foster
- James C. Foster, Co. “A”. Enrolled at La Grange, Fayette County, in May, 1863; mustered in June 6, 1863.
- Henry W. Johnson, Co. “B”. Enrolled at Moscow, Fayette County, May 17, 1863; mustered in June 6, 1863.
- Henry Fox, Co. “C”. Enrolled at Bolivar, Hardeman County, June 1, 1863; mustered in June 6, 1863.
- Christopher Fox, Co. “D”. La Grange May, 1863; mustered in June 6, 1863.
- Noah R. Smock, Co. “E”. La Grange May, 1863; mustered in June 6, 1863.
- Albert O. Marsh, Co. “F”. Grange May, 1863; mustered in June 6, 1863.
- Samuel Martin, Co. “G”. Enrolled at La Grange in May and June; mustered in June 27, 1863.
- Jesse H. Darnell, Co. “I”. Enrolled at La Grange and at Germantown, Shelby County, in June; mustered in June 27, 1863.
- Henry W. Hobbs, Co. “K”. Enrolled at La Grange in May and June; mustered in June 27, 1863.
This regiment was first reported in the Official Records on October 31, 1863, as the 1st Tennessee Infantry (African Descent), with 815 men, under Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Phillips, as an unattached regiment in the XVI Corps commanded by Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut, but spent its entire term of service in West Tennessee and North Mississippi.
On November 8, 1863, Brigadier General John D. Stevenson, at Corinth, Mississippi, reported it as part of the troops under his command. On December 31, 1863, under Major Robert Cowden, as the 1st West Tennessee Infantry (African Descent) it was still at Corinth.
On January 31, 1864, under Colonel Edward Bouton, it was reported in the 1st Colored Brigade, District of Memphis, composed of the 1st Alabama, and 1st and 2nd Tennessee Colored Regiments. On March 11, 1864, in accordance with the policy adopted of no longer listing colored troops under state names, the official designation was changed to 59th U. S. Infantry Regiment (Colored). On April 11, this was changed to 59th U. S. Colored Infantry Regiment.
By April 30, Colonel Bouton was in command of the brigade, and Major Cowden of the regiment. The Memphis Light Battery had replaced the 1st Alabama Infantry in the brigade. By May 31, Major Cowden had been promoted to lieutenant colonel, and the report bore a note that the regiment had been at Memphis since May 9, 1864.
In June 1864, the regiment went with Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis on his expedition into North Mississippi culminating in the Battle of Brice’s Cross Roads on June 10, where he was disastrously defeated by Major General Nathan B. Forrest. In this campaign, Colonel Bouton commanded the 3rd Brigade of Colonel W. L. McMillan’s 1st Division. The brigade consisted of the 55th and 5~h Infantry Regiments, and the Memphis Light Battery, now called Company “F” 2nd U. S. Colored Light Artillery Regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Cowden was severely wounded, and command of the regiment fell upon Captain James C. Foster. Colonel Bouton reported the regiment entered the campaign with 27 officers and 580 men; casualties were three officers, 143 men killed, wounded and missing.
The next expedition of note was with Major General Andrew J. Smith, from July ~21, during which the battle of Harrisburg was fought on July 14, with Confederate forces under Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee and Major General N. B. Forrest. In this campaign Colonel Bouton commanded the 1st Brigade, and Major (formerly Captain) James C. Foster the regiment. Casualties were one killed, ten wounded, three missing.
The regiment returned to Memphis, remaining in the same brigade until January 7, 1865. Lieutenant Colonel Cowden had resumed command by September 30, 1864. On January 7, 1865, in the organization of the Post and Defenses of Memphis, the 46th, 55th, 59th and 61st U S. Colored Infantry Regiments formed the 2nd Brigade, under Colonel Frank A. Kendrick. On February 23, this brigade, with the exception of the 59th was ordered to New Orleans, and the 59th was sent to Fort Pickering, Defenses of Memphis, where Colonel Ignatz P. Kappner was in command. On March 7, the regiment reported 725 effectives, aggregate present and absent 869. The regiment remained at Fort Pickering until July 14, 1865, when, in the organization of the District of West Tennessee,
Colonel Kappner was given command of the 2nd Brigade, of which the 59th was a member, with orders to report to Brevet Major General Augustus L. Chetlain, Commanding the Post and Defenses of Memphis. On August 18, 1865, Brevet Major General John E. Smith, commanding the District of West Tennessee, listed the 59th as one of the regiments on duty in his district. This was the last record found in the Official Records, but Dyer’s Compendium states the regiment was mustered out January 31, 1866.